May 10, 2024

Humans of DFCM—Dr. Jennifer McDonald & Stacey McKeown

Humans of DFCM, Faculty, Residency

Meet the administrative super-team who have spent a decade building Scarborough’s strong community-based family medicine residency program

Stacey McKeown (left) and Dr. Jennifer McDonald (right)
Stacey McKeown (left) and Dr. Jennifer McDonald (right)
"There are ebbs and flows in our profession, but the most important thing is our relationships with our patients. Find mentors, work with groups of like-minded individuals and advocate for the importance of family medicine.”

Dr. Jennifer McDonald CFPC, FCFP, and Stacey McKeown are an enduring presence in the Scarborough Health Network (SHN) family medicine residency program. For the past ten years, Dr. McDonald, the Site Program Director for Postgraduate Family Medicine, and McKeown, the Program Coordinator for Family & Community Medicine Residency & Clerkship Programs, have built a community-based program that offers excellent educational experiences in a nurturing and collegial atmosphere.  

Dr. McDonald’s journey into medicine began with her love for science and a desire to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives. After completing a Master's in Biochemistry with a joint Trent & Queen's Universities and then medical school at the University of Toronto in 2006, she completed her family medicine residency at the University of Toronto Department of Family & Community Medicine (DFCM).  

She had wanted to work in a career which allowed her to apply science to help people in their day-to-day lives and found that calling in family medicine. 

“I was inspired by the idea of comprehensive care with the physician-patient relationship at its core, as well as the flexibility of the specialty,” she says. 

But it was her residency at Michael Garron Hospital, and the many mentors she met there, that inspired her to pursue academic family medicine after graduating. She has been a community-based physician and teacher with SHN ever since. 

“Scarborough is a special place; I have been privileged to care for the people of Scarborough and East York for the last 16 years through my family practice at Victoria Health Centre.” 

It is this dedication to the local community, and to teaching, that led Dr. McDonald into the role of Site Program Director for Postgraduate Family Medicine at SHN in 2013. In this role, she is responsible for facilitating residents’ learning experiences to make sure they are ready to graduate and have the competencies needed to practice as a family doctor anywhere in Canada.

“One of my biggest achievements in this role has been to help create a strong community-based family medicine residency program,” she says. “SHN's residency program has a proud 33-year history, and since I have joined we have expanded our community teaching clinics to now 20 clinics with over 60 community family medicine teachers. It is currently a well-run, organized program with many passionate preceptors, in both family medicine and specialty rotations. We consider our learners junior colleagues right from the start, and they love the site for the diversity of the people, the variety of presentations and the one-on-one teaching. As a result, many former residents transition into permanent roles with us.” 

But a well-oiled machine like the SHN residency program could not have been achieved without the administrative support of Stacey McKeown, who has worked alongside Dr. McDonald for almost a decade, forming a dynamic partnership that has shaped SHN’s residency program to what it is today. 

“We have one rule for the residents in our program: ‘Tell Stacey!’, she helps residents with all issues—professional and sometimes personal—and is one of the reasons I have stayed on myself in my role!” says Dr. McDonald. 

Stacey echoes Dr. McDonald’s sentiments, emphasizing their collaborative approach to improving the residency experience at SHN: “We work very well together. We don’t work in the same office, but there is not a week that goes by that we are not working on something to make the program better. We are constantly doing continuous quality improvement for the program.” 

Looking ahead, there are exciting changes coming to SHN including an expansion of their residency program, clerkship program and the development of the new Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health. But no matter what else is going on, residents can always count on Dr. McDonald and McKeown to provide them with the support they need. 

“We are expecting huge changes for SHN and we’re working with DFCM to increase our footprint at SHN and in the community, while also ensuring that the quality of teaching and learning at the site is protected,” says Dr. McDonald. 

“Residency is a stressful time. Our residents need to know we are always there for them. I have an open-door policy and encourage them to ask for help whenever needed.”  

McKeown agrees, “Ask for help. This is not an easy job, but your colleagues and preceptors are always there to support your lifelong personal and professional growth.”  

For new residents, Dr. McDonald’s advice echos advice she was given when first starting out. 

“There are ebbs and flows in our profession, but the most important thing is our relationships with our patients. Find mentors, work with groups of like-minded individuals and advocate for the importance of our profession.” 

Fun facts about Stacey McKeown and Jennifer McDonald

Humans of DFCM is a monthly news series profiling the department’s faculty, staff, and learners. If you know someone who you think should be part of this series, please email